By Sports Reporter/Doha
Qatar created history yesterday making it to the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League for the first time with a win in the Asia Qualifiers in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Qatar national team defeated Saudi Arabia, who had stayed unbeaten in the tournament coming into yesterday’s game, by five wickets in a low-scoring affair at the David Buck Oval to claim a place in the sport’s main global structure for the first time.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia had clinched their fifth victory in the tournament with a dramatic win over the hosts with two balls to spare, and had almost secured the promotion.
But yesterday, Qatar were able to bowl out Saudi Arabia for 94 and despite losing their first four wickets with only 24 on the board, they achieved the target in just 18.1 overs to tie with their opponents at 10 points each but top the tournament on net run-rate.
It was Bahrain who finished third on eight points as they defeated Bhutan by 55. There had been heartbreak for Thailand when they lost to Saudi Arabia on Saturday but delight today when they beat Kuwait by seven wickets. Kuwait finished fourth in the table on six points just ahead of hosts Thailand who also won three out of six matches and competed well in the tournament. Bhutan finished sixth and China seventh in a tournament that provided plenty of competitive cricket for the seven Asian teams.
“This is a dream come true as we have been thinking for a long time about playing cricket at a higher level,” Qatar captain Inam-ul-Haq told ICC-Cricket.com after the match.
“Luck was on our side as Saudi Arabia chose to bat first when we wanted to bowl. This gave us a great opportunity and the team did their job.”
The captain, who has played 15 years of first-class cricket in Pakistan, had to retire hurt while batting when suffering from cramp.
After Saudi Arabia won the toss and batted first, Qatar’s formidable fast bowler Awais Malik struck with the third ball of the match as he had Abdul Waheed lbw for nought.
Saudi Arabia lost their second with the score on 13 as Mohamed Tanveer had Saudi captain Shoaib Ali caught behind by wicket-keeper Mohamed Rizlan for two from 16 balls.
Awais claimed his second wicket as Shahbaz Rasheed was caught at second slip by Iqbal Hussain and worse was to follow for the Saudi team as opener Inayat Saeed could no longer restrain himself and was caught at mid-off by Qatar captain off Mohamed Tanveer.
The advantage was with Qatar as they had Saudi Arabia in trouble at 22 for 4 after 10 overs.
After Awais and Tanveer had claimed two wickets each in their opening spells, two more medium-pacers, Kamran Khan and Iqbal Hussain, bowled in tandem against Mohamed Afzal and Mohsin Shabbir.
Qatar’s Mohamed Nadeem was already the leading wicket-taker in the tournament and it didn’t take him long to make an impact with his left-arm spin.
He was close to having Afzal caught behind as he tried to cut but soon got him stumped by impressive Rizlan.
He followed by getting Imran Arif caught and bowled for 5, and Saudi Arabia were precariously placed on 62 for 6 after 25 overs.
Nadeem was spinning the ball away from the right-handers at a good pace and was proving difficult to play. He took his third wicket when he also removed Omar Imtiaz caught and bowled for 5.
Nadeem had 3 for 11 in 7 overs and Saudi Arabia were 74 for 7 in 33 overs.
Qatar were now looking favourites to win the match and possibly even to win the tournament as captain Inam-ul-Haq claimed two wickets with his off-spin to leave Saudi Arabia on 87 for 9 after 40 overs. The captain then brought back Awais Malik to bowl at Hammad Saeed, who was injured during the match against Thailand and was still effectively batting one-handed.
There was suddenly more drama as Nadeem was forced off the field with a cramp after bowling one ball of his ninth over but Inam-ul-Haq took his third wicket to end the innings as Mohsin Shabbir was stumped by Rizlan for 23.
Saudi Arabia were bowled out for 94 and Qatar were required to achieve the target in less than 25 overs to gain the advantage on net run-rate.
With a match and a competition to win, Qatar found batting difficult as medium pacer Ibrar ul Haq took a wicket in the first over as he bowled Kamran Khan for nought. Tanveer fell in the next over lbw to leg-spinner Imran Arif for one. It was 10 for 3 in the third over when Ibrar removed Qalandar Khan lbw for one. Ibrar followed with his third wicket in a quality spell as Rizlan was caught behind for 8.
Qatar were reeling at 24 for 4 with captain Inam-ul-Haq retired hurt so they were very much on the back foot.
Zaheer Ibrahim and Tamoor Sajjad stitched together a partnership for the fifth wicket. Zaheer hit five fours in his 25 and Qatar were soon 64 for 4 after 13 overs and well ahead on the run-rate required.
There was another twist in the match as Zaheer was out bowled by Imran Arif, with 30 runs to win and five wickets left.
The end came quickly thanks to Tamoor Sajjad (28 not out, 2 fours, 1 six) and Dharmang Patel (15 not out, 3 fours) as Qatar shocked pre-tournament favourites Saudi Arabia by beating them by five wickets as they reached 96 for five in 18.1 overs.
Having topped the high-octane tournament, champions Qatar will progress into Division Five of the ICC World Cricket League.
Qatar Board for Cricket, Rugby and Hockey president Yousef al-Kuwari congratulated the team for their excellent performance in the tournament and for their achievement.
The Qatar national team had travelled to the tournament with assistant general secretary of the federation Eisa Ali Ghanem and Operations manager Manzoor Ahmad.
“It was an encouraging performance by the Qatar national team and we’re quite optimistic about putting up a good performance in the ICC tournament,” Ahmad said.
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